Benefit Event: Vine, Verse, and Song

Thu, April 9, 2009 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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A tasting of wine from Middle East heritage winemakers, classical bacchic poetry, and music to benefit Alwan for the Arts

$50 per person, seating is limited

RSVP:, tel.: 646 732 3261

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Bring me wine, and if it is truly wine, then say it is so…- Abu Nuwas

Wine has been part of Middle Eastern culture for millennia. From the world’s first traces of wine some 7000 years ago, to the wine amphora that accompanied Egyptian pharaohs to the underworld, from Jesus’s miracle at Qanaa, through the verses of Abu Nuwas and Omar Khayyam, past the European colonial period and into the present day, wine has been celebrated and fetishized (even negatively) by Middle Easterners longer than any other people on earth.

Wines of tremendous quality are being made today in the Middle East and North Africa, but significantly, many of the finest wines made in the New World today are being made by Middle East-heritage winemakers. From California to Oregon, the East End of Long Island, all the way south to Chile, Arab and Persian winemakers are setting standards for excellence in the regions they now call home.

So let him weep for himself,
one who wasted his life
never having won a share
or measure of this wine.
- Umar Ibn al-Farid (al-Khamariyyah)

Join us for an evening to celebrate the vine, from both bottle and in verse, as we taste excellent wines and become transported by the hedonistic poetry of Abu Nuwas, the mystical verse of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Farid, and the romantic phrasings of Omar Khayyam.

The professional, but informal tasting will be directed by noted wine critic and author, Jamal Rayyis; Taoufiq Ben Amor of Columbia University will lead the readings in Arabic, Kamran Rastegar and Kouross Esmaeli will read in Persian, and Jennifer Charles will read in English, all with musical accompaniment.

We shall taste wines from California’s Hanna, Abiouness and Darioush vineyards, Oregon’s Maysara and Ayoub vineyards, Chile’s Altaïr vineyard, and Long Island’s Paumanok Vineyards.

About the Speakers

Taoufiq Ben Amor is Gordon Gray Jr. Senior Lecturer in Arabic Studies at Columbia University. His research interests bring together linguistics, music and poetry to study the politics of music production. Ben Amor is a performing musician with the groups Tarab and Ayyoub. He is also the curator of the Alwan Festival of Sacred Music.

Jennifer Charles is a New York composer, singer, and poet. She fronts the band Elysian Fields as well as her Sephardic side project La Mar Enfortuna. Fresh from a months long tour of Europe, promoting Elysian Fields latest "The Afterlife". She was recently seen on the New York stage acting and singing in the off Broadway production of Michael Gordon's/Bill Morrison's "Lightning at our Feet", channeling 19th Century poet Emily Dickinson at Brooklyn Academy of Music. She is passionate about red wine.

Kouross Esmaeli is an Iranian-born filmmaker and photographer, who was Alwan for the Arts 2005 Artist in Residence. His work has appeared on stations as diverse as MTV and Al-Jazeera television.

Kamran Rastegar authored the first English translation of Mahmoud Dowlatabadi’s pivotal work Missing Soluch, a Novel (2007). He has also written Literary Modernity Between the Middle East and Europe: Transactions in Nineteenth-Century Arabic, Persian and English Literatures (2007), along with numerous articles and book chapters on various aspects of Iranian literature and cinema. He received his Ph.D. in comparative literature and Middle East studies at Columbia University in 2005, and taught at Brown University before joining the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Kamran recently accepted a position at Tufts University.

Jamal Rayyis is the nationally-known author of seven editions of the best-selling book Food & Wine Magazine’s Wine Guide (2002-2008). He has written for several publications, including Wine & Spirits, Food & Wine, Departures, Wine Enthusiast, The New York Times, Fodor’s, and several web-publications.

Last updated: 2009-04-02 13:28:59

Abu Nuwas (ca. 756-ca. 810)
Abu Nuwas (ca. 756-ca. 810)
Omar Khayyam (ca 1048-ca 1123)
Omar Khayyam (ca 1048-ca 1123)

Alwan for the Arts

16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
(between Broad St. and Broadway)
New York, NY 10004
(646) 732-3261

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